Much like Varanasi in the north, Madurai is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in India. Situated on the banks of Vaigai river in Tamil Nadu, the city is known for its Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. Apart from being a pilgrim town, a popular tourist destination, a cultural hotspot and the erstwhile capital of the Pandyan dynasty Madurai is also known for its food, cuisine, architecture, shopping and endearing people.
Madurai is known by several names: Koodal nagaram (City of Junctions), Malligai maanagar (City of Jasmine), Koil maanagar (Temple city), Thoonga nagaram(City that never sleeps) and Naanmada koodal (junction of four towers, that refers here to the four major temples that Madurai was known for) among others. The city even finds mention in the Tamil classical epic, Silappatikaram that revolves around Kannagi who avenges her husband’s death by destroying the Pandyan kingdom.
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Madurai’s recorded history goes back to the 3rd century BC. It is mentioned by Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to India as well as Kautilya. The Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple is the geographical center and the fulcrum around which the daily life of the locals revolve. The original temple was ransacked by the Muslim invader Malik Kafur in 1310 and the present structure is believed to have been built between 1623 and 1655 CE.
With motorcycle major TVS group, IT and IT-enabled services majors like Satyam, textile industries and industrial units connected with automobiles located here, Madurai is far more than just a temple town. The city also exports its famed jasmine flowers known as Madurai Malligai.
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Madurai played a major role in the Indian independence movement; it was after seeing agricultural laborers wearing the loin cloth in Madurai that Mahatma Gandhi decided to switch to wearing one himself.
Festivals of Madurai are popular and attract a lot of visitors. Meenakshi Tirukalyanam, the 10-day annual festival celebrated during April-May, attracts over a million visitors. The Jallikattu, the game of taming angry bulls, is similar to the Pampalona Bull Run held in Spain.
Madurai also serves as the gateway to hill stations like Kodaikanal and Munnar and to the famous wildlife hot spot Periyar National Park.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN MADURAI
Madurai has accommodation for all budgets. Most of the budget hotels are located close to the railway station, some are located close to the Meenakshi temple. Being a small city, travel should not be a concern. Most of the mid-range and luxury hotels are located within a 10 km radius of the airport. Summers tend to be hot so it is advisable to book air conditioned rooms.
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN MADURAI
Living up to its sobriquet, the city that never sleeps, hotels, shops and markets in Madurai are open 24×7. The city offers some unique flavored drinks like Jigarthanda and Paruthi Pal. Unlike in several pilgrimage towns, restaurants in Madurai also serve non-vegetarian food. But sample non-vegetarian dishes at your own risk because they tend to be very spicy.
Vegetarians need not despair. Eateries serving authentic Iyengar style meals and breakfast can also be found easily in the city. Some restaurants also offer Rajasthani thalis. Chinese, Continental and Chettinad cuisine can be savored in addition to the ubiquitous south Indian specialties.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MADURAI
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Madurai is as given below. The best time to visit Madurai is also specified.